With nominations being announced for Cannes in May, thoughts have recently turned to the role of the ‘festival’ in the 72.
As some of you may know, the previous 72 projects took place within the frameworks of established festivals in Galway and Melbourne. Our 72 in Birmingham isn’t, largely because there isn’t an established festival in Birmingham, which is a travesty given the size of the city. Before anyone mentions ‘Flatpack’, let’s consider that it is in early days in comparison to Galway (25 years) or Melbourne (60 years). And ‘Flatpack’ doesn’t point at industry per se, and doesn’t attract stars or industry to develop business. This isn’t a criticism of ‘Flatpack’, it isn’t what they set out to do, but it does leave a gap in the region.
There’s lots of talk about how the media industry has left Birmingham behind, with the BBC leaving Pebble Mill and then the Mailbox, and the collapse of the regional screen agencies. But the absence of a film festival suggests an absence of film culture, which isn’t true in Birmingham’s case. But compared to cities like Melbourne and Galway, neither of which are capitals in their less populated countries, but still bringing business and stars together in established festivals, Birmingham once again punches below its weight.
This isn’t the place to explore ‘why’, but it is interesting to say what effect it has upon local filmmaking. From the 72’s standpoint, we now have to find the audience that has previously been curated for us. This isn’t our original skill set, we are out of our comfort zone, but we are enjoying the challenge.
It was interesting when a local publication got in touch after our press release to ask about whether there were ‘local’ cast in the film. The answer is ‘yes’, but would it matter if it was ‘no’? Well, we could be accused of not promoting our regional talent, but the point of the 72 isn’t just to promote regional talent, it is to bring talent temporarily in to a region from outside to solidify and endorse our local talent. In Galway and Melbourne we arrived as strangers into the town and worked with the locals. In Birmingham WE are the locals, and we are bringing some talent in to work with us. Why? Because that is what a festival should be doing in Birmingham. It should be bringing people towards our economy and saying we are open for business. And in the absence of a festival, the 72 Project is hoping to demonstrate that.